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State v. S.G.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

October 28, 2019

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent,
v.
S.G., Appellant.

          ANDRUS, J.

         S.G. appeals the denial of his motion to restore his firearm rights after he completed a juvenile deferred disposition for second degree malicious mischief, and the juvenile court vacated his conviction. He contends that the juvenile court erroneously concluded that the firearms statute, RCW 9.41.040, prohibits those with dismissed juvenile deferred dispositions from owning a firearm. Alternatively, S.G. argues his firearm rights were "automatically" restored when his underlying conviction was vacated. We disagree with S.G.'s arguments and affirm.

         FACTS

         Seventeen-year-old S.G. admitted to second degree malicious mischief, a class C felony, after intentionally damaging a vehicle owned by Thomas Rechak' and Aarin Morris. Two of S.G.'s friends had been targeting Rechak and Morris and had enlisted their friends, including S.G., to help them destroy Rechak and Morris's personal property. Many of these incidents were caught on video by a neighbor's home surveillance system. On May 31, 2017, the surveillance system caught S.G. vandalizing Rechak's 1994 Ford van. The video showed S.G. scratching the paint on the driver side and hood of the vehicle, causing over $2, 000 in damage. The juvenile court found that S.G. was solely responsible for the damage.

         On November 28, 2017, S.G. pleaded guilty in exchange for a deferred disposition under RCW 13.40.127.[1] The juvenile court ordered a six month deferred disposition. Under the stipulated terms of the deferred disposition, S.G. lost his right to possess a firearm. S.G. was also told that his right to possess a firearm during the deferral period was "gone until you come back to court and ask for it back," to which S.G. agreed. Although S.G. turned 18 on December 22, 2017, the juvenile court retained jurisdiction over the case.

         On January 11, 2018, the juvenile court ordered restitution "as a condition of disposition." It ordered S.G. to pay Rechak or Morris $2, 427.38, the estimated cost of repairing the Ford van. The restitution order required S.G. to make monthly payments of $10 until he had fully repaid the restitution obligation. On May 4, 2018, the juvenile court dismissed S.G.'s juvenile deferred disposition and vacated his conviction, but the order noted that the case could not be sealed until S.G. had completed the restitution payments.

         A week later, on May 11, 2018, S.G. moved to restore his firearm rights. S.G. argued that the definition of "conviction" in the firearms statute, RCW 9.41.040, did not extend to juvenile deferred dispositions. The trial court denied the motion, reasoning that a "conviction" under RCW 9.41.040, criminalizing the unlawful possession of a firearm, occurs when a person enters a plea of guilty and includes juvenile deferred dispositions. See RCW 9.41.040(3). S.G. appeals.

         ANALYSIS

         Under the firearms statute, RCW 9.41.040, a person, whether adult or juvenile, may not possess a firearm "after having previously been convicted ... of any serious offense ...." Subsection 3 of that same statute provides:

Notwithstanding . . . any other provision of law, ... a person has been "convicted", whether in an adult court or adjudicated in a juvenile court, at such time as a plea of guilty has been accepted .:. notwithstanding the pendency of any future proceedings including but not limited to sentencing or disposition, post-trial or post-fact-finding motions, and appeals. Conviction includes a dismissal entered after a period of probation, suspension or deferral of sentence, and also includes equivalent dispositions by courts in jurisdictions other than Washington state.

RCW 9.41.040(3) (emphasis added).

         S.G. first argues that because juvenile deferred dispositions are not explicitly included in the definition of "conviction" in RCW 9.41.040(3), they are exempt from the statute. S.G. alternatively argues that his conviction ceased to be a "conviction" under RCW 9.41.040(3) when the court vacated it, and his right to possess a firearm was automatically restored. We consider each argument in turn.

         We review issues of statutory interpretation de novo. State v. Dennis, 191 Wn.2d 169, 172, 421 P.3d 944 (2018). The purpose of statutory interpretation is "to determine and give effect to the intent of the legislature." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting State v. Evans, 177 Wn.2d 186, 192, 298 P.3d 724 (2013)). This court derives the legislative intent of a statute "solely from the plain language by considering the text of the provision in question, the context of the statute in which the provision is found, related provisions, and the statutory scheme as a whole." Id. at 172-73. Furthermore, when interpreting a criminal statute, this court gives it "a literal and strict interpretation." Id. at 172 (quoting State v. Delgado, 148 Wn.2d 723, 727, 63 P.3d 792 (2003)). "If, after this inquiry, there is more than one reasonable interpretation of the plain language, then a statute is ambiguous and we may rely on principles of statutory construction, legislative history, and relevant case law to discern legislative intent." Id. at 173

         S.G. contends that RCW 9.41.040(3) expressly includes deferred sentences in its definition of "conviction," but makes no mention of dismissed juvenile deferred dispositions. He argues that because a deferred sentence is not the same as a ...


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